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Residents speak out over proposals to close a Camden elementary school

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

CAMDEN, N.Y. (WKTV) - Almost 100 concerned residents, parents and students filled Camden School District's Board of Education Tuesday night to speak out against proposals to close one of the district's elementary schools. The plan was brought forth in an efficiency study put on by the district to come up with solutions where the district can save money as they had to use $ 3 million of their reserve funds for the current 2012-2013 year. Camden Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Bryant said if they continue to do that, they'd be broke in 3 years.

The efficiency study put on by the school district outlined 8 options for the district. The closing of North Bay Elementary School is in 6 out of the 8 proposed options, and the closing of Annsville Elementary school was brought up once.

The Camden school board decided not to move forward with picking a plan or even the top 3 plans as some board members wanted, but instead research all the options more. All options but "non closure." Many residents spoke to the board in a public forum at the end of the meeting, upset wondering why not closing a school isn't on the table.

"What they haven't convinced the public yet of is is there no other options? In other words you can not close a school but save money other ways," said Peter Fitzgerald, President of the grass roots group Camden Educational Oversight Association. "They haven't brought any out to the public saying this is what we've tried we've done this we've cut this program, we've saved money this way, you know they're so afraid to use this rainy day fund (reserve fund) you're about to impact the lives of every child parent, teacher in this district...let's take some time with this decision."

Peter Fitzgerald collected over 550 signatures from residents over the past week against closing any of Camden's elementary schools. He along with several residents urged the board to look at other places in their budget that could be cut before jumping to closing a school.

Fitzgerald says when ranked, the non closure option came out 5th out of 8 by the focus group.

Time lines were recurringly brought up in the meeting by the superintendent and some board members, saying they need to pick a plan soon so they don't have to continue depleting their reserve funds. To that, some residents wondered why not use the reserve fund in a time like this, to buy the district a little more time to study all options to make the best decision.

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